New year, new lockdown, new UK lettings activity surge

Newly imposed stricter coronavirus lockdown rules made little impact on housing market activity and may have acted as a catalyst as new enquiries from landlords seeking agents and tenants surged in the first full week of January, while new vendor levels also grew strongly, according to the latest Yomdel Property Sentiment Tracker (YPST).

With the housing market permitted to remain open for the time being, landlords were quick to seize the initiative with new enquiries hitting their highest level since last August, surging 45% on last week. Tenants leapt 32%, vendors 22% and buyers 7%, indicating strong demand from people keen to move their plans forward in the face of a very uncertain outlook, the YPST data for the week ending midnight 10 January showed.

As hospitals in the UK fill to overflowing, the coronavirus death toll races past 80,000 and people are once again instructed to stay home, engagement with estate agents via digital channels has remained strong. Traffic to own-branded estate agent websites was 7% higher than the same week 2020, while the number of people engaging in real-time live chat online was 16% higher, and the number of leads being generated some 15% higher.

Yomdel provides 24/7 managed live chat services to 3,800 estate agent offices in the UK, handling more than a 1.5m chats per year. It has analysed the data and leads captured in live chat going back to January 2019, up until week ending 10 January 2021. The website visitor data is a sample across major estate agency groups in the UK and covers in excess of 47 million unique website visits back to January 2019.

“The volumes of new vendors in the market, despite strong growth in the past week, is down 19% versus the same week 2020. There is scope for increased imbalance between available stock and high numbers of buyers, a problem that has the potential to be exacerbated if deals fall through as the 31 March Stamp Duty holiday deadline nears due to deals collapsing or people are unable to move,” said Yomdel Founder & CEO Andy Soloman.

“There are calls from politicians to temporaily ban home moves and this is likely to have spurred tenants and landlords to take action now. But it is clear digital is front and centre for consumers and our data shows people seeking help are turning to live chat in ever increasing numbers, meaning there are new deals for agents to be had,” he added.

The YPST methodology establishes a base line average shown as 100% or 100, calculated according to average engagement values over the 62 weeks prior to the first national lockdown on 23 March 2020, and plots movements from there according to the volumes of people engaging in live chat, their stated needs, questions asked, and new business leads generated. Data is measured over full 24-hour periods.

New vendors surged 22.27%, or 21.98 points, to end the week on 120.67, some 21% above the average but 19% below the same week last year.

Buyers rose 7.00%, or 18.06 points, to close at 123.98, some 24% above the pre-covid-19 average and 1% below the same week 2020.

Landlords leapt 44.82% or 35.13 points, to finish at 135.18, their highest level since last August, 35% above the average and 38% higher than the same week last year.

Tenants rose 31.93%, or 32.72 points, to close at 135.18, around 35% above the pre-covid-19 average and 38% higher than the same week last year.

The following graph looks at the relationship between website visitor volumes, live chat volumes and the volume of leads generated. The data samples more than 45 million visitors to estate agent websites from Jan 2019 – 10 January 2021 and shows how web traffic (blue line) is 8% higher than the same week last year. The volume of people using live chat (red line) and the numbers of new business leads captured (purple line) are 14% and 31%, respectively, above the same week 2020.

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